Mother Goose Made Grape Syrup

If you were here yesterday, you already know that Mother Goose took a pail of grapes and magically turned them into grape juice. And now, let’s hear the rest of this story…..

Following the recipe as closely as I possibly could, I added the gelling agent to the juice, along with some lemon juice.

Mother Goose is VERY good at reading, you know! The next part of the recipe suggested that I bring the juice to a hard, rolling boil and then add the sugar. This sounds easy enough, doesn’t it?

And still following the good advice from Better Homes and Gardens, Mother Goose brought this mixture up to another hard, rolling boil. AND HELD IT THERE FOR EXACTLY ONE MINUTE STIRRING CONSTANTLY. In the meantime, I am also soaking my little half pint jars, keeping them piping hot. AND there’s also the big pot of hot water for the processing bath. AND there’s the rest of the family waiting for their after school snacks, their pre-dinner snacks and their spaghetti dinner; not to mention study snacks, bedtime snacks and dessert. People are running in and out of the kitchen as if suddenly we live in a mini Grand Central Station, and they have plenty of advice for what Mother Goose should be doing to make the grape jelly even better.

So after the hard boil, I removed the pot from the heat. I was advised to skim off the scum with a metal spoon. Here’s a picture of the scum — I’m especially attached to this picture…

And then, simply ladle the potential jelly into the sanitized jars. I found a funnel to be most useful at this juncture.

Then just wipe off the jars, adjust the lids and toss them into the processing bath. So easy a child could do it. And perhaps I should have just let a child do it…

Again, I believe timing is important here. The recipe was specific — five minutes of boiling in the pot. Then I removed them from their bath and let them rest on the racks. Happily I listened as one by one, each jar uttered its little “pop” sound which proved that they had been processed and sealed. Everybody popped!

Ahhh, Mother Goose had accomplished the impossible — homemade Grape Jelly — time for a little reward… I opened up a fine bottle of wine, and sipped and waited patiently for the gelling process to miraculously come to fruition. I watched the jars. I waited on the jars. Every so often I walked over and tipped one a little to see how thick it was getting. Nope. A little bit more waiting…. Nope. Up in the middle of the night to check the jars…. Nope. No gelling process coming to fruition in this kitchen. Nope. And again in the morning when I awoke. “Good morning, jars! How are we today? Full of gelled up jelly?” Nope.

So we have twelve half pints of grape syrup! Please come over anytime for pancakes and waffles! (And, if you have any advice for Mother Goose for next time….you may leave me a comment. Or a kleenex…)

Making Grape Jelly with Mother Goose

We are taking time out of our regularly scheduled story telling today to explain how Mother Goose makes Grape Jelly. Now I realize that this is probably not one of my totally necessary tasks — after all, couldn’t we just fly on over to the Whole Foods Market and pick up such a nice jar of organic Grape Jelly and within minutes be slathering it all over our toast. Mother Goose says, “Well, of course!” But here’s the point: we have a grape vine growing over our back gate, and it’s just completely loaded with little grapes. I have been waiting for them to ripen and hoping that the racoons will leave me a few — they come every night for a grape festival.

(Photo courtesy of Mad Dog and Englishwoman blog on Word Press, THANKS!)

We hear them arguing and have even seen them munching in the arbor. They drop quite a few on the sidewalk, and then stomp on them as they leave the feast. What is left behind on the ground will ferment, and I know they will be back for THAT party. So, it was time to harvest the grapes.

So we picked all the glorious clusters of grapes and filled the spaghetti pot. Then Mother Goose cleaned and sorted the grapes, throwing away the leaves and stems and sour green grapes. This left approximately half of a pot of grapes…hardly enough to even piddle around with. But…. Mr. Mother Goose thoughtfully went out to the grocery store and bought bunches and bunches of purple seedless grapes and added them to the pot, making it all very worthwhile again.

And here’s where it gets personal, warm and friendly reader. Mother Goose removed her boots and climbed into the spaghetti pot and proceeded to stomp the grapes in the days-gone-by manner of the vineyards. Yes, she mashed and stomped and got all that grape juice on her little goose feet and got the skins tangled up in her toes. It was a delightful experience — just as wonderful as I Love Lucy portrayed it so long ago. Squashy squashy, squishy squishy.
(Unfortunately, there are no pictures for me to post as proof that this really happened…..)

But here’s what the juice of all those grapes looks like after I boiled it awhile, and you’ll just have to trust me about the stomping part…

And then, of course, we must strain the grapes, removing all of the solid matter and disposing of it in a timely fashion. It was kind of my little panda bear friend to help me with this…

Stay tuned tomorrow when Mother Goose magically turns the grape juice into Grape Jelly. Or wine. And drinks it all.

Paul Bryant has crossed the Finish Line

By now, my friend has heard these words, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

Paul passed from a life of service to the Lord here on earth and into the glorious presence of King Jesus on August 12. We were blessed beyond description to attend his memorial service yesterday at Crossroads Restoration Church in West Chicago, along with more than 100 of Paul’s closest friends and family. And though we celebrated his life and comforted each other, there were no dry eyes as his daughter Valerie danced to the song “Butterfly Kisses” and son Michael read his original essay about visiting the Baseball Hall of Fame with his dad. I have not been to a more meaningful memorial service or funeral — full of music and carefully selected pictures for the slide shows, and the eulogies given by pastor and fraternity brothers and friends were so personal and so full of love.

Dear Kate, allow God’s peace and grace to carry you along through these days — know without a doubt that this tribute to Paul was precious and so full of honor and joy. We will be praying for you. We love you.

Bunn and the Bear

My sister, my sissy poo, my dear Bunn is the most amazing woman in the world. Not only has she endured two hip replacements within two years and overcome so many other extreme challenges in her life, she has finally kissed a black bear. Here’s the proof!

For anyone who needs to believe in the impossible today…

Enjoy God’s blessings wherever you are and whoever you are kissing.

Our Favorite Rock Star

Mother Goose is happy and proud to introduce you to Suzanne Cordes. And heeeeeere she is….

Suzanne is Mark’s sister — his only sister which makes her even more special. She’s a beautiful California girl with a sweet little beach home, but is rarely there these days — she’s busy rigging up the light show for American Idol Live 2011 Tour! Can you even imagine that job? She gets to go to the concert practically every night for nearly three months — in a different city every night! She sets up the lights for the show (which was GREAT, by the way!), and then tears it all down and packs it up for the next stop on the tour.

We were so privileged to join her at the Allstate Arena just outside of Chicago last night to see the show. And not only that, but she got us special backstage passes and took us to the catering area backstage where we had some dessert and hobnobbed with the eleven finalists from this season’s American Idol competition. We met, shook hands and even got some hugs from some of the “idols” — very nice, very friendly kids all of them. Lauren is sooo sweet — of course, being from Georgia how could she be anything else? Haley is very amazing, a high-energy angel with the softest hair. Casey, James and Stefano all characters to the end. Jacob said his hi’s and then went straight as an arrow to the banquet table! (Somebody commented, “Don’t get between that guy and the food…”)

Suzanne has been working the concert scene for thirty years or so, working with some of the greats in the rock and roll world. She did rigging for Aerosmith for many many years as well as Gloria Estafan, Beyonce and others. She’s been around the world so many times it makes your head spin!

She is humble about her friends in high places — she is gracious beyond the imagination. She is very lovingly spiritual, and her soul is gloriously beautiful. What else can I say about Suzanne, except I love her and wish we could spend more time together — our visits are always much too short.

Mother Goose loves Suzanne — she’s one in a million!

An Artist Date

Part of my twelve week artist recovery program (The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron) is to use the tool, An Artist Date. Very basically, I am encouraged to take my inner artist person out on a date — just the two of us. (Jessi is very concerned about this. Little wonder as I have begun talking to my artist, turning my head to the right and speaking down towards my elbow. I told her that maybe I was talking to my dear friend, Little Wife!)

Anyhow, my artist and I stopped at the Morton Arboretum for awhile the other evening and were happily engaged in admiring not just the trees, the flora and fauna, but also the summer art exhibit “nature unframed”. So many artists, so many pieces — the sun was going down so we could not stop to enjoy every one, but this was my favorite.

My artist wanted to quickly walk away from this, but I begged her to walk closer with me. So glad she listened! This piece, created by Thomas Matsuda from Massachusetts, is made from charred and carved trees and stumps. He challenges us to think about fire and its effects — is it destruction or is it the path to purification?

Sitting near it evoked so many memories within my heart. My dad was a forester in Minnesota, and part of my growing up was getting educated about the dangers of forest fires. Smokey Bear was always there, sometimes visible, sometimes not. I remember as a shy five-year old going to my dad’s office, walking down into the lower level with the rest of the family and watching a very scary movie about a very big forest fire, probably out west somewhere, but in my precious egg shell mind, it could be right outside of town. My family and I could easily be in danger at any time. When Smokey said, “Only YOU can prevent forest fires”, I took that very personally.

But anyway, enough with my digress. Bottom line: my artist and I had a great date. We nurtured each other’s creativity. We had a good talk about the art we viewed. We enjoyed each other’s company. And that’s a really important part of having dual personalities!

Enjoy your gift of today! Be creative!

Back of the Basket

Sometimes when I read a blog, I have to ask myself, “What happened that caused them to write that? There’s something between the lines, but I just can’t see it with my old foggy eyes.” I wonder if anyone asked that question yesterday with my short little story about Little Wife’s basket…

I had every intention of telling a funny story about Little Wife in one of her hilarious adventures. Halfway through my thought process, the mailman delivered his daily stuff. The first envelope I opened was the bad news that the high school would not waive its fees because our income did not fall within their restricted guidelines.

Next I opened the envelope from Compassion Int’l which is usually a wonderful letter from the young lady I’ve sponsored for more than eleven years — her name is Annet, and she lives in Uganda. You may remember that one of the great gifts Mark gave me for our anniversary was a savings account so that I could plan to visit her in the fall of 2012, and I’ve been very excited about that journey.

I immediately realized that the letter inside was not from Annet — not her handwriting. It was actually from the child development director at the Nangalama Child Development Center in Jinja where Annet has been connected to the services of Compassion. Her letter was brief — thanks for being Annet’s sponsor, unfortunately she is unavailable to respond in writing to my letters. Here is a direct quote from the heart-breaking letter:

“Annet finished [her studies] as a nursing aide and went to look for employment. In the due course, she became pregnant and gave birth to a baby. She preferred to stay away from home, and her parents do not know where she is living now. Efforts are however in place to find Annet and as soon as we find her, we shall request her to write to you.”

I have no more details than that. Just a sadness and a mother’s heart of worry for this woman who I’ve known since she was eight years old, the same age that AnnaRose is right now. So that’s why I just started putting all my stuff in the basket yesterday — too much stuff was cluttering up my heart, and the tears in my eyes blurring the screen so that I couldn’t tell you more about Little Wife.

Please pray with me that my dear daughter in Uganda is safe, and that she is not all alone in the city. Pray that God will guide her and lead her and comfort her and strengthen her and give her His peace. And may His sweetest blessings fall on you today.

Little Wife’s Basket

My dear friend, Little Wife, came over the other day for a cuppa tea, and some good visiting. I was so happy to spend some rare time with her — she’s been awfully busy these days with some new projects. Little Wife likes to keep her home and her life decluttered as much as possible. She’s very organized! When she opens her mail, she opens it and deals with each and every letter and bill immediately. She is quick to discard junk mail — she doesn’t need time to ponder the latest credit card deal or magazine subscription offer — just tosses it in the can. Her bills are so quickly noted on her calendar and filed in the “To Be Paid” folder. And she receives so much personal mail — much more than I do! Little Wife keeps all of her stationery and pens and postage stamps in one place so she can conveniently answer each and every letter from every important person who writes to her. She really does take the time to organize her mail and spread joy to all of her personal correspondents, and I truly admire her for that!

An important part of Little Wife’s organization projects is to put her stuff into baskets. Here’s a picture of me holding one of the baskets
that Little Wife accidentally left at my house recently.

I will eventually return it to her, of course. But first, I’m going to use it to put some of my own stuff in. Starting today I will put in all of my regrets. I will leave them in there, and not take them out to ponder them for hours on end. They are safely in Little Wife’s basket. I am also tossing in my fears, my doubts and my unmet expectations. Might as well just put them away where I won’t be tempted to fuss over them. And here goes all my sorrow and loneliness and disappointments…

The basket is getting awfully heavy — I should have a lid to put on it so nothing falls out. Wouldn’t want to drop any of this stuff out of the basket…

The nice thing is that I’m not actually throwing anything away — just stuffing it in a basket where it’ll be nice and safe and secure. I can take a little bit out at a time and decide about it. Do I want to deal with the fear of getting some employment right now, or should I leave that in the basket a little longer? What about all the crabbiness I feel?

I think I’ll leave it all in the basket today, and live life to the fullest JUST FOR TODAY. Like Scarlett, I’ll think about all of that tomorrow.

Blessings on your good day, from Little Wife and me.

Important Stats for a Goose

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August 2011